Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

Eastern bloc wants fewer EU powers, more security

  • Szydlo (l), Merkel, Fico, Orban and Sobotka met on Friday to discuss EU reform (Photo: P. Tracz/KPRM)

Central and eastern European leaders have reiterated the need for more national power in EU policy-making during talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw on Friday (26 August).

Merkel met with the heads of the Visegrad group of four countries (V4) - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - as part of a European tour prior to the summit, in Bratislava on 16 September, on post-Brexit EU reform.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

She is meeting 15 EU leaders this week in an effort to bridge gaps between capitals, which have divergent views on how to react to the UK’s shocking decision to leave.

She told press in Poland on Friday that Brexit should give impetus to reform, calling it a “turning point in the history of European integration”.

Some countries, such as Italy, have called for a leap forward in EU powers, but the V4 believe people want less policy-making in Brussels.

The V4 are also fierce critics of Merkel’s open-door policy on immigration and of EU-imposed migrant relocation quotas.

Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo, who holds the rotating presidency of the V4 said alongside Merkel that the European project “must be rooted in the needs of real democratic communities - national democracies”.

Hungary’s pugilistic leader, Viktor Orban, earlier in the day announced the building of a new, reinforced border fence to keep out migrants from Hungary.

He told the V4+Merkel event that European institutions should go back to their “roots”.

“The European Council and only the council should lead the EU," he said, referring to an intergovernmental body in Brussels where member states thrash out deals.

"The European Commission should stop acting as a political actor, and should return to being the guardian of the treaties,” he added.

He said immigration and social policies in particular should stay in national hands.

Szydlo and Orban, who have faced EU criticism for abusing rule of law at home, said Brexit was a symptom, not a cause of Europe’s problems.

Despite their euroscepticism, Orban and Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka called for the creation of a European army to reinforce defence cooperation.

Szydlo also said the EU’s main priority should be the security of its citizens, amid concern on Russian revanchism and Middle East terrorism.

Slovakia’s prime minister Rober Fico, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council, was more cautious. "The truth is that different countries have quite different opinions [on the EU reform],” he said.

Fico also called for better communication between EU institutions, capitals, and average people.

Merkel agreed, saying that Britain’s decision to leave had exposed the need for better communication within the bloc.

On migration, Merkel said the EU could limit the flow of asylum seekers by doing deals with source and transit countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Later on Friday, Merkel is to meet, back in Germany, with the prime ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Sweden to continue her pre-Bratislava deliberations.

Merkel wants EU to focus on jobs and security

Merkel is meeting 12 EU leaders in the next two days to forge alliances before the Bratislava summit in September on the EU's future, where different views are bound to clash.

Tusk and Merkel discuss post-Brexit EU

EU Council president Tusk will meet chancellor Merkel at a castle retreat in Germany on Thursday as part of preparations for the Brexit summit in Bratislava.

Analysis

EU must protect its citizens

If the EU wants to reach out to disillusioned Europeans, it must offer more protection from the forces currently buffeting the political, social and economic landscape.

Magazine

The rise and shine of Visegrad

The V4 countries - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - has turned the EU's migration policy around. They now set their sights on reshaping the union.

Agenda

Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

The EU will be watching closely how the political dynamics of Theresa May's Conservative party conference starting next week will influence Brexit negotiations. MEPs might also be forced to release their office expenses.

Feature

Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit

Decisions in the EU are a complicated process of intense negotiations, quid pro quos and horse-trading, until an agreement can finally be reached. But that didn't happen in Salzburg.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us